Anyone who has observed HMRC’s continuing management debacles since its shotgun birth more than a decade ago will know that one name dominates its lists of cock-ups. That is that of its former director Dave Hartnett.
Now the Supreme Court has ruled that his comments to the press in 2012 breached his basic duty of confidentiality to a taxpayer and as a result millions in compensation will be payable.
The tax office had justified arranging the briefing on the grounds that it wanted to foster good relations with the media and publicise its views about elaborate tax avoidance schemes. Toulson said these arguments “cannot possibly justify a senior or any other official of HMRC discussing the affairs of individual taxpayers with journalists”.
Section 18 of the Commissioners for Revenue and Customs Act 2005 states officials “may not disclose information which is held by the Revenue and Customs in connection with a function of the Rvenue and Customs”.
However, tax campaigners such as the MP Margaret Hodge argue the confidentiality rules should be reformed. They say greater transparency is needed, for example on tax settlements with big companies and high net worth individuals.
One of those tax campaigners being Ritchie, no doubt?